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Soldier Up, Feminists: SP's in Town

Written by Kathleen Reeves for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Rebecca Traister wrote last week about Sarah Palin’s recent use of the F-word and the feminist response. Traister points out that as feminism has no clear platform, it “does not make for great sound bites” and is therefore up for grabs—even (or especially) by the right, which loves to lay claim to empty signifiers in order to rally the faithful.

Traister writes:

"What we are talking about is a battle over language. And the left -- perhaps because of a commitment to expressing a considered, thoughtful take on issues or perhaps because we are pansies -- does not have a winning history when it comes to battles over language."

It’s true that progressives’ appreciation of complexity, uncertainty, and nuance makes us thoughtful people but poor soldiers in the language war. I’m particularly interested in Traister’s critique of the word, “choice”—and I find myself agreeing with her:

"Years ago, women's rights activists ceded words that tied reproductive freedom to life and morality and were left with the limp language of"choice" – a word so fungible that it is now used to stamp everything from getting an abortion to getting a boob job as a "feminist" act. It's the very word that is being used as a weapon by conservative women who not unreasonably wonder why, according to the language to which feminists cling, their "choices" to support gun rights and religious teaching in schools are less valid than the "choices" of their feminist counterparts."

If “choice” is problematic, then perhaps a better place to start is “freedom.” Because, indeed, Sarah Palin has touted her own kind of choice: the choice to pursue an ambitious career in politics while raising children, the choice to give birth late in life, the choice to extract oil at the expense of her home state’s ecology. Read more